The core of the Architecture Collection was assembled by MIT’s Department of Architecture in the late nineteenth century. The oldest academic program in architecture in the country, MIT’s Course IV architecture program, established in 1867, emphasized both the artistic and practical elements of education. William Robert Ware, creator of the MIT curriculum and its first instructor, collected hundreds of drawings from active architectural practices as teaching examples. He also began the systematic collecting of student work, often the drawings from students’ final thesis projects.
Most of the collection dates from the late nineteenth and twentieth century, with additional examples ranging from the sixteenth century through the past twenty years. The MIT collection includes 8,500 student thesis drawings from 1873 to the 1960s, several thousand additional classroom drawings, and program books that document other student work and studio competitions from 1905 to 1956. The study collection contains nineteenth century examples of English and French work —including Emmanuel Brune, Leon Chifflot, Émile Vaudremer—and work of nineteenth and twentieth century faculty, such as Constant-Désiré Despradelle and Lawrence B. Anderson. The Architecture collection is also rich in travel sketches by MIT students and faculty, notably Samuel Chamberlain and Rotch Travelling Scholarship recipient Robert Spencer.
Incorporated into the MIT Museum in the 1980s, the Architecture Collection was expanded to include a broad range of professional work by MIT alumni and faculty, with particular strength in the documentation of modern architecture in New England. Alumni, faculty, and firm archives include Mary Otis Stevens (BArch 1956); Imre Halasz (faculty 1957–2003); The Architects Collaborative (TAC); Kallmann McKinnell & Wood, Goody Clancy, and others.